SHOULD YOU PITCH TO AN AGENT OR NOT?
This is a moot question if you’re going to self-publish. It’s also moot if you’re going to be your own agent and want to go directly through the publisher yourself if you think you know your way around the system well enough. Funny, after being rejected 659 times, most of those rejections from agents with only a few from publishers, I finally got my deal with a publisher. A small press mind you, but still a deal, no agent.
If you go the self-published or e-published route (which is still self-published), no agent is involved. There’s no middle man, especially with the e-pub. However, some in the industry (cough cough… Lee Child), you aren’t worth spit. I resent that, but also see his point. There’s a lot of crap out there in the self-published world because there are no filters to weed out the stuff that shouldn’t be published. Just look at the books that make it to traditional print. There’s no accounting for taste as it is. There are plenty of bad books out there from big publishers.
Consider how many self-published works are flooding the market, especially now that e-pubbing is taking off, that don’t have anyone to tell the author no, or to edit them and tell them where they need to fix anything. A lot of people are being ripped off of their hard earned cents or even dollars from blind sales of tomes that may have catchy titles or artwork but turn out to be turgid, boring or amateurish drivel that a third grader could out-write. In that respect, I agree with Child, but he’s slamming a lot of great writers who are being rejected on a whim from overloaded agents and publishers who never get to even a quarter of the manuscripts submitted to them, if that.
If you decide to go with an agent, why? Because they can open doors you can’t. They live and breathe the industry. They know these people. They eat lunch and dinner with them. They go to conferences with editors and publishers, they talk to them every day. They know their likes and dislikes. The big boys. That’s the argument for them.
Which agents do you look for? Forget the books you see in the bookstore. They’re a great way to fatten the wallet of the author that wrote them, but they’re woefully out of date by the time you see them on a bookshelf. The best way is to use the Internet. www.agentquery.com is probably the most detailed and up-to-date site out there. You also don’t want to forget Preditors and Editors http://pred-ed.com/ This site can save you a lot of grief!
You have to know your genre. Each agent usually takes specific genres. Study their profile. If it’s vague, take a chance. All you’ll get is a rejection. So what? 659 rejections and counting… I’m still alive.
When reading the agent profile, be sure to check their submission requirements carefully!
Have a generic submission query, but make sure to customize it for each agent. Some will ask for a synopsis, a few pages, this and that. Some will want exclusive access to your work. If they do? Lie! I’m serious. Lie! Let’s put it this way. When you’re sending out queries or MS’s to agents (if they ask for them), they may take 6 months to a year to get back to you. Multiply that by how many agents you want to submit to and the inevitable rejections you’re going to get before one says yes. How many decades to you want to wait before you finally get a yes? I’m just saying. Their demand for exclusivity sounds reasonable assuming your MS is all that dynamite and everyone is starving for work, but the fact is they aren’t. They get thousands and thousands of MSs a month. They’re flooded with stuff and barely have time to get up in the morning, let alone read your work. So, demanding the impossible is ridiculous.
I’m bringing this up again because it’s almost conference time. April is near and it’s time to get ready.